‘Sex Work and Human Trafficking – The Case for Agency and Empowerment’: The latest Blog

We have published the latest blog, ‘Sex Work and Human Trafficking – The Case for Agency and Empowerment’.

In this piece, we reflect on the nexus between sex work and human trafficking, and explore approaches that may help prevent and address exploitation in the context of commercial sex. The blog draws upon a paper that UN-ACT presented at the 2017 Seoul Dialogues, an event organized by UNDP and the Government of South Korea.

You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.

What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on the nexus between sex work and human trafficking?

We would be happy to hear from you! You can comment directly in response to our blog!…

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New in ‘Tools & Guidelines’: Supporting the Reintegration of Trafficked Persons – A Guidebook for the Greater Mekong Sub-region

BANGKOK, 7 April 2017 – Today a new tool to support the reintegration of trafficking survivors was released by NEXUS Institute, the United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT) and World Vision. The guidebook – Supporting the Reintegration of Trafficked Persons: A Guidebook for the Greater Mekong Sub-Region – is for practitioners from government and non-government organizations alike, to address weaknesses in the current frameworks of victim assistance and reintegration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam).

The guidebook highlights positive examples of the reintegration of trafficked persons as well as challenges that many victims face as they seek to move on from their exploitation. It also offers practical guidance to practitioners – through checklists and recommendations – on how to improve reintegration programming and policies.

The guidebook is based on the findings from the regional study After Trafficking: Experiences and Challenges in the (Re)Integration of Trafficked Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, which was published in 2013 by NEXUS Institute and the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), now UN-ACT. This study was based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of trafficking victims throughout the GMS and identified many good practices and lessons directly from trafficking victims in the region. 

Rebecca Surtees, Senior Researcher at NEXUS Institute and author of both the After Trafficking research report and the newly-published guidebook said, “More than 250 trafficked persons from six countries shared their very personal experiences and reflections of their lives after trafficking. This guidebook is based directly on their reintegration experiences and their recommendations on how to better support victim reintegration.”

The guidebook has been translated into the main languages of the countries covered by the project. It will be disseminated to relevant organizations and institutions in the region to support their on-going assistance work. Amy Collins, Regional Programme Coordinator of World Vision’s Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) in East Asia Programme highlighted the importance of operationalising the guidance in the handbook to improve reintegration efforts: “World Vision, with our infrastructure in these countries addressing trafficking from policy, advocacy and implementation angles, stands ready to support this endeavour.”

Both the After Trafficking study and the reintegration guidebook are excellent examples of effective regional cooperation through the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT). COMMIT is a mechanism for bi- and multilateral collaboration against human trafficking based on a 2004 Memorandum of Understanding among the six GMS countries. UN-ACT and its predecessor project, UNIAP, have served as the Secretariat of COMMIT since its establishment. 

Kaori Kawarabayashi, UN-ACT’s Regional Project Manager, stressed the critical role of COMMIT in improving reintegration responses: “The study was undertaken in the context of a region-wide reintegration initiative endorsed by the COMMIT governments. It is thanks to the COMMIT framework that we were able to generate the rich evidence base informing the study and this guidebook, and that we now have the mandate to work towards improving policies and programmes on reintegration across the sub-region, in line with international standards.”   



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UN-ACT Webinar on the Complexities of Mixed Migration in Counter-Trafficking

UN-ACT recently delivered a webinar on ‘Irregular Migrants, Refugees or Victims of Human Trafficking? The Complexities of Mixed Migration in Counter-Trafficking’ on Freedom Collaborative (FC).

The full webinar including the slides used are now available on the FC website and can be accessed here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/record…/1323030627957045515.

If you are interested in the topics discussed, look out for the UN-ACT-Mahidol University conference on these issuex in June 2017 and consider submitting your papers! See more here: https://sites.google.com/a/mahidol.edu/trafficking-seminar/.

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New in ‘Tools & Guidelines’: COMMIT Indicators of Human Trafficking & Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms

Two new publications of the COMMIT Process are now available for download.

The ‘Common Indicators of Trafficking and Associated Forms of Exploitation‘ are designed to support the initial screening of possible cases of human trafficking, which more robust victim identification procedures then build upon. The results of such initial screenings will depend on a number of the indicators being apparent, and also their severity in a possible given case.

The indicators were developed jointly by the ASEAN and COMMIT Member States, with support from ILO, IOM, AAPTIP and UN-ACT, and adopted by COMMIT at its Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in 2016.

At the same SOM, COMMIT Member States also adopted the ‘Common Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms‘. Developed at the sub-regional level by government and non-government stakeholders, these guidelines provide direction for policy and programming in COMMIT countries, and draw upon the Process’ experiences as well as international agreements and good practices.

The two documents are complementary in nature, and will be operationalised and localised in 2017, with support from UN-ACT and partners.


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UN-ACT Quarter 4 2016 Newsletter

Click on UN-ACT Quarter 4 2016 Newsletter for all the latest information on human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. For an email-based version of the newsletter that is easier to manage and comes with an improved layout, please subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of the website.…

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‘Migrants Mean Business’: The latest Blog

We have published the latest blog, ‘Migrants Mean Business’. It was first published in The Huffington Post and is re-published here on the occasion of the International Migrants Day.

In this piece, Magdy Martinez-Soliman, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, argues that human mobility is inevitable and unstoppable, but that, if facilitated and well-managed, it creates opportunities for everyone.

You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.

What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on the opportunities and risks associated with migration?

We would be happy to hear from you! You can comment directly in response to our blog!…

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UN-ACT partners with Microsoft to prevent human trafficking from affecting youths

Limited opportunities for education, skill development and employment have contributed to the prevalence of cross-border human trafficking and left youths in the Greater Mekong Sub-region including Thailand vulnerable to forms of exploitation.

To address this important issue, Microsoft has initiated ‘Microsoft YouthSpark: Computer Science and ICT Education to Empower At-Risk Youths in Thailand’ in a joint effort with UN-ACT, the National Council for Child and Youth Development (NYCD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and World Vision Foundation of Thailand.

The two-day program empowers disadvantaged youths in high-risk areas by enhancing their IT skills. Such IT skills help young people to access information, which in turn can help them to protect themselves, pursue a career path towards self-reliance or become involved with social initiatives. Participants also learn how to use technological tools to create sharable content that raises public awareness of the human trafficking problem. This helps participants to build an in-depth understanding of the issue in order to better protect themselves and their communities. Finally, the program encourages creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

YouthSparks is particularly important as it innovatively uses technology classes to combat human trafficking. The sessions are effective in both informing young people about issues related to exploitation as well as developing concrete skills that will reduce the participants’ risks of falling victim to the crime in the future. This is the first time that human trafficking has been targeted in this way in the region, signaling an exciting new development in counter-human trafficking efforts.

The program also demonstrates how UN-ACT can engage with young people as well as the private sector – two of its key partners. Kaori Kawarabayashi, Regional Project Manager of UN-ACT, emphasises:

“Youths are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. UN-ACT is pleased to support the YouthSpark Project, which equips young people with essential computer skills that will enhance their professional opportunities and reduce their risk of exploitation.”

The program has yielded positive results so far. For example, one youth participant says that the sessions gave him “(…) an understanding of the human trafficking problem, which means we can protect ourselves better.” He also says that “[o]n top of the fun activities, we realized that we are actually better problem solvers than we thought we were, and this encouraged us to spread the word for others’ safety.”

Somsak Mukdavannakorn, Public Sector Director, Microsoft (Thailand) Limited, similarly explains:

“With various criminal groups operating in large networks, human trafficking is a highly alarming threat that is close at hand. (…) Our YouthSpark activities allow at-risk youths to access useful information while also putting to work their creativity, analytical thinking, and problem solving skills. Ultimately, we hope that these opportunities will allow them to discover the potential within themselves, which in turn will open up new career opportunities that enable them to contribute to society.”

After two successful sessions in February 2016, Microsoft has already run an additional 5 extended training classes in various at-risk locations across Thailand. The participants in each session have been active in developing brochures, posters, presentations, videos as well as interactive reports and stories that relate to combatting human trafficking.…

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Academic Conference with UN-ACT on Irregular Migration, Asylum and Human Trafficking

UN-ACT is partnering with the Social Science Division and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University for an academic conference to be held in Bangkok in June 2017. The theme of the event is Irregular Migrants, Refugees or Victims of Human-Trafficking? Analysis, Advocacy and Assistance between Categorizations and (Self-)Identifications.

Migration, displacement and human trafficking have become staples of headline news. Reactions range – and sometimes change – from outrage over abuse and sympathy for individuals and groups seen as victims, to open hostility towards those perceived as alien intruders or threats to security, political, cultural and business interests.

Where international instruments of varying age and origin provide a set of at times overlapping categorizations, policy-makers and public discourse often look for clear classifications and impose mutually exclusive labels on groups and individuals, whose circumstances are complex, diverse and not always well understood. Such categorical overlaps, however, may be exploited at the expense of the individuals concerned. It is hardly surprising then that persons caught in this legal and conceptual web prove at times wary of the labels offered to or imposed upon them.

Further, aid agencies and organizations working in the areas of migration, displacement, and human trafficking cannot avoid the contest over categorizations and classifications either. Legal definitions help shape opportunities for and conditions of assistance while public perceptions associated with different terms impact on available funds. Donors of aid programs expect accountability, which requires clear classifications of those provided with assistance. But actual needs for assistance may cut across rigid differentiations between economic migrants, refugees or victims of human-trafficking.

Finally, in receiving communities these people may face hostility because they are seen as illegal migrants, economic refugees, or queue jumpers.

The response to migration, displacement, and human trafficking is thus in part contingent upon conceptual schemes and classifications and at the same time impacts upon them. It is this interdependence and the challenges resulting from it that are the focus of the workshop. We invite:

  • conceptual studies,
  • reports on empirical research,
  • and reflection papers by practitioners

in the areas of migration, displacement, human-trafficking and related forms of exploitation in the wider Southeast Asian region.

Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do individuals respond to labels such as migrant, refugee, victim of human trafficking or slave applied or available to them? What motivates these responses?
  • How and to what extent can individuals assert their own agency and express their own views of their circumstances in the face of categorizations and classifications by public discourse, state authorities, or aid agencies?
  • How are public perceptions shaped and articulated in relation to these labels?
  • How are government and non-government service providers impacted by such categories in their ability and willingness to extend services to different populations?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, are advocacy and assistance efforts shaped, enhanced or limited by categories in international and national law, or the labels – and changes therein – dominant in public discourse?
  • How do problems of, and contests over, classifications impact the compilation of data on migration, displacement, human trafficking and related forms of exploitation?
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UN-ACT-Mahidol University Research Partnership

UN-ACT is partnering with the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) at Mahidol University and People Serving People Foundation (PSPF) for a research project exploring the nexus between asylum and labour exploitation.

In preparation, UN-ACT and PSPF organized a 2-day training for around 15 students from IHRP touching upon international legislation on human trafficking and asylum, its application to concrete case studies, indicators of exploitation and human trafficking in a research context, as well as ethical and security considerations for data collection in highly sensitive environments.

The training also included testing the draft research tool and practicing interviewing through role-plays.

The students are now well-equipped for the pilot stage of data collection, which is set to commence shortly. Their experiences as part of this project will be garnered and shared with peers, helping to increase awareness on human trafficking, asylum and the nexus between these among students and beyond.

The project is part of UN-ACT’s broader efforts to strengthen teaching and research on migration and exploitation at Universities across Southeast Asia. In a region that witnesses significant, and increasing, migratory patterns, it is key for societies to educate professionals and academics alike that are equipped to shape and respond to the opportunities and challenges that these create.


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COMMIT SOM 11 in Vientiane, Lao PDR Concluded

The latest Regional COMMIT Task Force (TF) and Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 11) took place in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 23 and 24 November 2016.

The meeting brought together the leadership of the national TFs from each of the 6 COMMIT members (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam), UN-ACT as the COMMIT Secretariat, other UN agencies and international organizations such as ASEAN, the diplomatic community and donor agencies including Norway and Sweden as UN-ACT’s key contributors, civil society stakeholders and the COMMIT Youth Forum as well as private sector actors.

On the agenda were COMMIT sustainability and capacity development; victim identification and referral mechanisms; engagement with youth, civil society, ASEAN and the private sector; monitoring and reporting progress of SPAIV implementation; and 2017 work planning.

Key outcomes included the adoption of the common ASEAN-COMMIT indicators of human trafficking and related forms of exploitation as well as the COMMIT Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms. Both are designed to help significantly improve victim identification in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and ensure that those identified receive adequate support services. The next step will be to localize and operationalize the indicators and guidelines in national contexts.

In another major decision, the COMMIT governments unanimously agreed to make strengthening labour migration systems in the GMS a priority for interventions in 2017, thereby recognizing the fundamental connectedness between human trafficking and labour migration, especially in Southeast Asia.

The government delegates also decided to introduce an annually rotating COMMIT Chair, to be performed by the country hosting the SOM and working alongside UN-ACT to represent COMMIT externally whilst giving guidance and direction internally. This will help strengthen governmental ownership over COMMIT in the interest of the Process’ long-term sustainability.

With the end of 2016 approaching, those involved in the COMMIT Process will now proceed with work planning for 2017, based on the decision points reached at the Vientiane meeting. UN-ACT is looking forward to supporting the Process in implementing the various important agreements reached.


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